Architectural teaching at risk from state move to regulation
How do you deal with the constant bombardment of copy mail? Simple - if correspondence is not addressed to you directly, despatch it to the bin. This is difficult if you are a control freak or fearful of litigation, two related conditions well understood by anyone in construction, but still worth a try. However, there are times, such as last week, when information flows on a serendipitous wave of related enquiry.
The Architectural Association's suite of lectures explored its own education and constitution. Guests and staff probed what an independent architectural school could, rather than should, be. The AA is remarkable if only because it is self-determining and potentially redefining. That is why it survives.
The parts of this dynamic academic whole provide plenty to debate. The structure is a council (trustees), a membership (current students and architects and others interested in said subject), a school community (administrative and academic staff, students and council) and a chair to be voted in publicly by the school community but employed directly by council.
This is interesting to some but parochial to others. But the debate is relevant now because the AA has become a 'benchmark' to the architectural schools within universities.
This is because of its outstanding history of learning 'inputs' (teachers) and 'outputs' (architects and teachers) and because it is independent of university regulation.
The word on the street is that the ARB v RIBA discussion is tiresome. But it may still catch the imagination if it evolves from phoney battle to bloody war - after all, behind it lies the fundamental question: who regulates architecture? The answer, at present, is no one. The ARB protects the title not the activity;
the RIBA promotes architecture and its members. My view is that architectural activity cannot be regulated and education will inevitably be accredited, but by whom?
While construction is heavily regulated, anyone can get involved in the procurement, funding, design and making of buildings;
others will decide if the result is architecture.
That is right. The danger is that government regulation of title, to date the fairly useless persecution of petty theft, is evolving into a commitment to the regulation of architecture as state-controlled business. Architectural education, as the key supplier to the business, will, if regulated, be driven to create professional fodder suitable only for the provision of the majority of low-life buildings emerging from government funding regimes.
This perception of architectural education as a non-academic enquiry of delivery is shared in some academic arenas. Cambridge, having shed Part 2, is now looking to lose Parts 1 and 3. Perhaps only some sporting 'blues', or a revival in Lubetkin's interest in ornamental pastry making, can save the course.
This contrasts with Iain Borden's inaugural professorial lecture at UCL, which suggested that buildings in their useful life could be perceived as but a trace of the architectural ideas that called them into being. This is seen in the work of the late John Donat, AA alumnus, whose photography explored people in architecture, sometimes in the rain.
I doubt any of this would have interested Peter Eisenman, Cambridge alumnus, who for 40 years has offered prolonged and dense Tafuriesque text and denser still sub-Terragniesque projects. I cannot but wonder how his celebrated enquiries might be perceived in a government-regulated profession. That is, of course, if he was allowed to get that far by a governmentcontrolled education.